At some point in everyone’s lives, anxiety feels debilitating and crippling. Trying to perform your best and create a fulfilling life can feel impossible with lingering anxiety.
As our article on how to deal with test anxiety shows, mental performance is largely influenced by how anxious we feel. Not only does it make us feel tense and unhappy, but it also makes it difficult to focus and perform the way we desire.
Anxiety comes in many forms and there is no 1-size fits all answer. However, by looking at brain chemicals and how anxiety shows up in our daily lives, it is possible to find anxiety supplements and habits that can make a drastic difference in your life.
Anxiety Supplements for Generalized Anxiety
Most people who struggle with anxiety find that it is a general feeling of unease rather than any particular situation or factor. We won’t follow the strict definition of “generalized anxiety disorder” (GAD), but rather blaze our own path for treating what is a crippling condition for many.
Many of the supplements for anxiety, which we list are natural solutions that have been used for thousands of years. The natural supplements for anxiety are not only safer (in most situations), but also have a lot more research.
We will first start with the natural options and then go a little deeper down the rabbit hole.
Ashwagandha – If you were a goat herder in India 3,000 years ago, the only way to solve your ailments was through Ayurvedic medicine.
Masters of their land and plants, ancient Indian and Chinese medicinal practitioners often used ashwagandha to treat symptoms of anxiety many years ago. The research has caught up to your ancestors in recent times.
One study showed ashwagandha could reduce anxiety over 56.5% (compared with 30.5% for placebo) over an 8 week period of taking the natural anxiety supplement . Another study showed cortisol levels dropped 27.9% (an indicator of stress) while using ashwagandha .
Bacopa Monnieri – Another Ayurvedic tradition, bacopa monnieri may be the more popular of the Indian nootropic compounds. While bacopa is not traditionally used exclusively for the purpose of anxiety, modern research suggests it can.
Primarily, bacopa reduces anxiety as a means of performing better mentally (i.e: during a test of some sort) . While the research on the anxiolytic properties is scarce, as a whole this is a safe and reliable anxiety supplement.
L-Theanine – Found in green tea, this amino acid is considered one of the main constituents leading to enhanced alpha brain waves (i.e: relaxation). It may not be as powerful as xanax, but it is potent for reducing feelings of anxiety nonetheless .
Generally, L-theanine can help to promote relaxation and calm without a feeling of sedation (a common problem among other anxiety supplements).
Kava Kava – If you live in an urban environment, you may have seen a local kava bar pop up (we have in Austin, Texas!). Kava is an ancient south Pacific root, which is used for ceremonies and in the treatment of anxiety.
Kava is one of the few natural anxiety supplements, which may work better than traditional prescription drugs . This has led to many people using kava for what is called the “kava kava high”, which is a feeling of euphoria and enhanced mood.
In fact, kava is so reputable as an anxiety-reducing natural treatment, it is one of the few (only?) nootropics that can improve a woman’s sex drive and libido . The study cites reduced anxiety as the cause of this effect.
Valerian Root – This is a great natural resource for reducing anxiety and the symptoms that come along with it. Valerian root not only improves sleep quality, but can reduce symptoms of anxiety at a similar capacity to diazepam, which is a prescription drug used for the same purpose .
Kick it Up a Notch: Anti Anxiety Supplements
Beyond the natural options, which have been used for thousands of years, there are modern concoctions that have a measure of risk, but can also be very potent.
Tianeptine – originally discovered (synthesized) in the 1960s, tianeptine is a potent anxiety relieving drug. Not only does tianeptine have significant mood boosting (some consider it “euphoria”) effects , but it can even treat symptoms of PTSD .
Of course, with greater anti-anxiety power comes a greater risk of side effects. Up to 20% of people experience headaches and insomnia so keep this in mind before running out to try it. Also, the feeling of euphoria can be somewhat addictive.
Editor’s Note: Without reading any of the literature, my girlfriend said “…a feeling of euphoria in my body…” among other highly positive things about the drug. She struggles with anxiety and tianeptine was helpful when she took it. See her comments in the video below.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
N-Acetyl-Cysteine – there is no evidence that N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) can help treat anxiety, but it can treat (or reduce) the resulting habits. For example, nail-biting or impulsive face picking are signs of anxiety that NAC can reduce by 15 – 52.6% .
We don’t suggest that NAC can solve your bad habits, but there is some evidence to suggest it can support people who are exhibiting these habits as an anxious response.
Social Anxiety Treatments
Moving into the realm of social anxiety, it seems most of the evidence is anecdotal as opposed to scientific. This naturally has advantages and disadvantages.
For one thing, scientific evidence often lags many years behind subjective experiences and collective wisdom. If we are willing to take some risks (which many people struggling with anxiety usually are), it is worthwhile to take anecdotal evidence seriously.
Aniracetam – Initially, aniracetam was developed as a memory enhancing drug, which could help to treat neurodegenerative disease and memory loss in the elderly. One study suggests aniracetam can reduce symptoms of anxiety, but this was performed in rats .
Most of the research regarding social anxiety treatment comes from online communities like Reddit and Longecity. One person wrote: “I've been taking Aniracetam and as some of you might have read in my other thread I'm loving the effects. It helps me with my anxiety around social situations…” 
And another: “I read a lot of posts on reddit and longecity and about how great aniracetam is for anxiety and social avoidance behaviors though, which prompted me to buy some more ani and I'm going to switch back to aniracetam.” 
However, one counter anecdote reported:
“Besides the first few doses, it did not do too much for my anxiety personally. I even tried taking it with Omega-3 as someone suggested to me, and still nothing too noticeable.” 
Phenibut – this drug can be highly addictive with potentially harsh withdrawal symptoms, but many people have found phenibut to be an effective anxiety (and social anxiety) drug for specific as-needed instances.
Most people consider phenibut to be a powerful anti-anxiety drug, but also a risky one. As a derivative of GABA, it crosses the blood-brain barrier easily and has immediate and strong results . Here are some things people have mentioned online:
“...you should think of phenibut sort of like alcohol in this regard. Although less impairing than alcohol, phenibut is probably more addictive, and should probably be thought of as an occasional social lubricant. Just like you wouldn't look to alcohol to “solve” either anxiety or shyness, you shouldn't look to phenibut.” 
And finally: “It has just as much addictive potential, however. You should really only use it occasionally, and in controlled doses (e.g.: max once weekly, less than 2 grams). If you start to take phenibut more often than that, you're going to build a tolerance and it will become ineffective. If you increase the dose to try and maintain effectiveness, you're risking dependence and potentially horrible withdrawals.” 
Other Anxiety Treatments
While nootropics and smart drugs for anxiety can be highly beneficial, there are lifestyle habits and practices that can make an even greater impact in certain situations. Everyone is different and the cause of anxiety will be unique for each individual.
Here are some options to consider:
LSD / Psilocybin – while microdosing is being used to improve mood and creativity in a work setting, the most profound (and long-term) usage of psychedelic substances is for anxiety and depression.
In fact, recent scientific evidence suggests psilocybin and LSD can be one of the top 5 most transformative experiences and significantly reduce treatment resistant anxiety and depression . This has prompted figures, such as Tim Ferriss to fund and raise money for this type of treatment .
Exposure Therapy – in essence, exposure therapy is a technique by which one is exposed to fearful situations in a safe context free from danger. Repetitive exposure helps to remove the anxiety over time, which can aid in a more longer-term solution.
Meditation – like exposure therapy, this is a practice rather than a substance. Although many people consider meditation to be woo-woo or lacking in scientific evidence, there are studies to show positive effects. One study focused on 1,140 participants and concluded that meditation can reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood .
Traditional meditation is only one route. Simply taking walks can be a “moving meditation”, there are apps (like Headspace), and other resources to begin.
Sensory Deprivation Chamber – if you’d like “meditation on steroids” as Dr. Engle calls it , a sensory deprivation chamber might be a great route to take. In a flotation tank, you’ll be submerged in saltwater with very little sensory input. While it might not sound appealing to some people who experience anxiety, evidence suggests it can reduce symptoms of anxiety .
Anxiety Supplements Testing and Tracking
Anyone who struggles with anxiety will have a subjective feeling with relief. It doesn’t take a genius to feel better when consuming supplements that treat anxiety, but there are ways to quantify this as well.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of stress, which is often correlated with anxiety. While it isn’t perfect and there are many variables, using an HRV sensor to check yourself daily can help indicate how your body is handling stress (and if it is stressed out).
Knowing what anxiety supplements are working and not can help save money, but also tweak and optimize what you consume. By doing this and adding a healthy dose of anti-anxiety practices, you can vastly improve your mood, feeling of happiness, and perform better at work.
- References (Click to Expand)
- “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss